Rainey Daze and Crazy Nights

Poetry, Paintings, and Ponderings: Through My Eyes

THIS is What I Wanted to be When I Grew Up? May 7, 2013

Life is crazy. And weird. And never, ever what you expect it to be.

When I was 10 if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would say a vet. I wanted to help all the animals in the world. Never mind that I couldn’t stand the thought of putting one down, or the realities of surgery. I just wanted to love and help them all, in some vague way. Oh, and get paid for it, so I could afford the ‘farm’ I would have. Never mind the real hard work that goes into such a farm; I just liked the idea of it.

When I was 13 if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would say a rock star. I idolized those who could rock out: playing a guitar and singing their way across all the countries of the world. I wanted it all: the fame, the fortune, and the fans. It was just a minor problem that I had no singing talent at all, nor could I play any instrument. Unless you counted a play electric organ. I could beat out Silent Night like nobody’s business.

It’s strange, looking back. I had this idea of who I would be and what my life would be like. In some ways, parts of it came true. I always wanted to get married and raise a family, and I have done this. I wanted to stay home with my children and raise them like my mom did with me, and I did. I stayed home with my girls until they started school. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I eventually decided to be a teacher, and (other than the lack of money) I never regretted that decision. Although I still sing in the shower, to keep the vocal chords warmed up, just in case…

My life did not turn out to be exactly as I thought; life has a way of shaping  you and changing your beliefs and values. Things that I once thought to be important are now of no consequence to me.

Funny, as I was growing up, not once did I ever think to myself, “When I grow up, I want to be a semi-crazy mom who raises one drug-addicted,  bipolar daughter with life issues, and one daughter who has strict, traditional values. Except for being gay, of course. Oh, and I want a husband who is old-fashioned and out of touch, so I can carry the weight of our problems by myself. Throw in a dog I love, but who has unexplained seizures, and THAT’S the life I want!”

No, none of us really get what we think we want. But you know what? I’ve made a life. I have a sense of humor that saves me most days. I have a family I love who loves me back. I have an interesting job that is great most days. This is my life, and I made it mine. It is not what I expected, because it is so much more.

 

Too Much Suffering February 20, 2013

She is running. J is never home these days, and when she is it is not for long. She is frantic. Her speech is like verbal garbage falling from her mouth. Her eyes are huge and she barely blinks. She is the walking poster child for mania.

It doesn’t help that she just got paid and her tax money is due any time now. For J, money and mania is as deadly as drinking and driving. I’ve talked to her already and she sees the signs. But how do you pull back? How do you stop the freight train that is flying down the track without any brakes? The doctors never really answer that question. How do I sit and watch the accident unfold? All I can do is warn her, but when she is in this state it doesn’t stop until…well, you know.

Depression. The evil twin of mania. It will slow her speech, stop her traveling, and halt her spending. Each time, I pray it doesn’t take her life. And, if I am being truthful, I pray it doesn’t take my life. Every time I watch her go through this, I die. I rage against a God, or Gods, or just the fucking universe, for doing this to her. Yeah, I’ve heard it before: there is a reason for everything. I have to say, I don’t see a reason for this suffering she must endure. I don’t want to know that there is an all-powerful BEING who would allow the agony I have witnessed. For that matter, what type of glorious  GOD would allow me to be molested at the age of four? Or gang raped as a teenager?

Sorry, I got carried away. I’ve seen too much suffering lately. I sat in the hallway today as a nine-year old described her home life. She lives with eleven other people, all but one older than she. They make her fist fight her eight-year old brother because they think it is funny. She had a busted lip. I’m pretty sure she’s been molested, but I cannot get her to admit it yet. Another child was so hungry he was literally shoving food into his mouth like some sort of caveman. This was on Tuesday, right after we returned from a three-day weekend. I wonder if he had eaten at all since school on Friday.

There is so much pain with our young people. They don’t deserve this kind of life. My daughter is a good, decent person. She doesn’t deserve the pain she deals with every day. The children I see at school are too young to deal with the adult issues they must deal with daily.

My heart hurts today. I’m having trouble seeing the beauty in this world when all I see is immense pain and suffering of our children.

 

An Angry Child February 12, 2013

Hot, pulsing anger pushes her

flows from her fingertips

like bolts of lightning.

She wears a daily  mask

of hatred and apathy

so no one can guess her reality.

But, if you look closely

you might glimpse in her eyes

the scared little girl inside…

Eight in years but thirty-eight in her soul

too wise for her young age

too broken to still be a child.

Beatings routinely rain down on her

a small punching bag for mom

rape is her unwelcome companion.

She knows only searing pain and hate

lashing out at school because

love and caring are foreigners.

All she really wants, all she really needs

is someone to see; someone to care;

someone to save her.

 

 

 

 

 

An Interesting Day February 4, 2013

Today was…interesting. I watched a child, age 7, place a rather large hair barrette in her mouth. As I was saying, “Don’t put that in your mouth! You might swal….” she did. She swallowed it.

Now, this was no little bitty barrette. It was two inches long when closed and puffed out to look like a bow. It had a clip in the back, but I’m not sure if the clip was open or closed when it took the trip down her throat. Either way, it was scary and dangerous. The child looked at me in shock and said, “It’s gone! I swallowed it! That kinda hurt!”

I did the logical thing. As soon as I saw that it went down WITHOUT CHOKING HER TO DEATH, I went to the office to have them call her mother. The office called, and, after several attempts, finally got up with her. This was at 9:30 this morning. Mom arrived….at 2:05. After speaking with her child (quietly, off in the corner) she came back and told the office staff, “That lady was mistaken. I counted her barrettes this morning. She’s not missing any. That lady was mistaken.” She then took the child and went home.

THE LADY WAS MISTAKEN? THE LADY WAS MISTAKEN???? What the hell? That barrette was large enough to do possible damage on the way through her little digestive system. I was shaking, I was so mad. SHE COUNTED THE BARRETTES THIS MORNING? Really? Because I know that is what I did when I put barrettes in my child’s hair. I counted. Yep. Every time.

I know that kids will be kids. Children do not have the ability to think through their actions (neither do we as adults sometimes!) at this age. Children always have, and always will, do stupid things. That’s why they are supposed to have parents with some sense.

When I was four years old, there was a large bush that grew in my yard. The bush was covered with beautiful, bright red berries. My mom cautioned me to never, ever put the berries in my mouth because they could make me very sick. As I was an obedient child, I listened to my mother. Not once did I eat the berries. But she never said I shouldn’t shove them up my nose.

After shoving three or four of those big-ass berries up my tiny nostril, I couldn’t breath very well. My nose started snotting up and I cried. When mom came running, I told her what I did with the berries. After several torturous minutes of her rooting around in my nose without success, she called a friend to take us to the doctor. Just as we pulled into the parking lot of the doctor’s office, nature took over and I let out a nose-clearing sneeze that solved the problem without any further assistance.

Child nose

Child nose (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The point is, I did something stupid, like kids do. And my mom did what good parents do: she handled it. This little girl who is currently digesting a huge chunk of plastic, deserves to have a parent who will handle it. Not pretend it didn’t happen.

 

 

Survivor November 26, 2012

Child sexual abuse effects and INFECTS too many lives. It changes the normal path of thinking when a child has to deal with the conflicting feelings that arise.

I was abused more than once. I suffered the guilt, the pain, the shame. I still feel it when it rises up in the middle of the night and threatens to choke me. It is decades later, and I still feel it.

But I survived. I am still here, and I am fighting.

Why? Because after all of this time, I am slowly beginning to think I might be worth it.

A Self-Portrait

 

Rainey: Unedited and On the Edge of Losing It July 19, 2012

Trigger Warning: I am struggling today, and this post is my brain rambling about many things…including suicide, sexual abuse, and other things. It is NOT a cry for suicide prevention help.

***I apologize in advance for this post…it is not my usual, and it is unedited and straight from the heart. I can’t hide anymore. Many of you may not want to read.

What if I just let go? What would happen? I have held myself in check for my entire life and it is becoming harder and harder and harder. I don’t want to be strong anymore. I don’t want to be the one who fixes everything, makes it all better, handles all the problems, listens and gives sage advice. I have never allowed myself to fall apart. I cry a little, let off some steam, but never, never, never do I let go completely. I am so afraid I will not be able to come back to “normal”. When I went to the west coast to place J in a treatment program I participated in counseling sessions with her and the counselor, Navid. Navid said he had never met anyone who kept such tight control of their emotions. He kept digging and trying to get me to let go, so I finally faked it and cried a little. I have major issues that I keep under wraps because everyone, I mean EVERYONE, in my family depends on me to hold it together. I’ve watched J try to kill herself numerous times….I held it together.  S moved away…I was a rock. My husband, P, had cancer. I held it all in. Then he had a stroke. I carried on. I’m so tired. I don’t even know who I am anymore because I am so caught up in being who everyone NEEDS me to be. I am one big stupid lie. If I let it all out the madness will overtake me and life as I know it will be over. I’m beginning to think that is not a bad thing. Can I walk away from all that I have? I’m not talking material things, that doesn’t mean shit to me. I’m talking family, friends, job, my LIFE. There is no one, not one single person in my entire existence, that understands. That, I know in the very center of my being. Do you know that when I started dating my husband, P, I told him about the sexual abuse I suffered as a child. He accepted me anyway, and that meant THE WORLD to me. Then, when J was in the hospital it came up in conversation and he said, “WHAT? I didn’t know that!”. All these years I felt so good knowing he accepted that part of me, and HE DIDN’T EVEN FUCKING REMEMBER OR CARE!!!! What does that say about me? I have surrounded myself with people who think they know me, who only allow themselves to see what they want to see, who think they might even love me, but they have no idea, really who or what I am because I LIE with my actions, with my words, with my smiles. There is a madness inside of me that I have hidden for so long, and it has been patient, but time is drawing near….it cannot be patient much longer. I know I have severe mental problems but I continue to function and no one even guesses anything is wrong with me. Am I that good or do people around me really not care? As long as I am there for them, right? I know you will say go to  a doctor. I have no desire to go through what J goes through, what so many of you go through,with doctors and medicines. I know I will have to before all is said and done, but procrastination is one of my biggest faults. I was supposed to go this summer, but cancelled the appointment. I know I will either kill myself or fall completely apart.  A part of me wants to just walk into the nearest mental hospital and commit myself and just let the pieces of my life fall apart. My husband will leave me, my parents and siblings will turn their backs, I will lose my job, my friends will be nonexistent…only my daughters and my dogs will stand by me. Really, that doesn’t even make me sad or upset. I just feel numb inside, and overwhelmed by what will happen. So instead of doing anything, I sit here because I feel overwhelmed at what I will do after that. What will a broken, mental, middle-aged woman with no job, no place to live, and no personal relationships do? Where will I go? How will I survive? These things keep me paralyzed. and so….I continue to live this lie. I don’t think I can hold on much longer.

 

So…I am NOT June Cleaver! June 17, 2012

I used to watch reruns (I’m not THAT old) of old shows on t.v. (think ‘Leave It to Beaver’ or ‘Father Knows Best’) where the mom dressed impeccably and cleaned house all day in her heels, and the dad wore business suits and came home happy to be with his loving family. These type of shows can make the best parent feel awful about parenting skills. Have you ever felt like mother of the year material? Yeah? Me, neither.

When my girls were younger we would often vacation at a little cabin (owned by my in-laws) by a lake. It was nothing fancy, but very nice for us as we didn’t have money to take real vacations. We would swim and play all day, and grill hamburgers and hotdogs in the late afternoon. I would then give the girls baths, brush hair and teeth and have them ready for bed. Since it was vacation, my girls, J and S, stayed up late and had extra “wind-down” time. They had a pile of special “lake house toys” that usually kept them entertained.

The living room had a bank of windows that looked out over the lake, so I plugged in the baby monitor, instructed them to “play nice”, grabbed two ice-cold beers from the fridge, and joined my husband on the pier. He was already settled back in his chair, fishing pole in hand. I could sit in my chair on the pier and see the girls through the living room windows. The baby monitor kept me updated on any potential fights or problems. All-in-all, a nice system. Yeah, right. A nice system if I had normal kids, which I don’t.

Let me explain: My oldest daughter, J, was born with a flair for dramatics. She can create drama most humans never dream of! One minute she is the life of the party, the next minute everyone is against her and her world is ending. As a teenager, we discovered her ups and downs were not just typical teenage problems, but  bipolar. (That, however, is a post for another day.)

My youngest, daughter, S, is the quiet, stable one. She spent her young years trying to counter-balance her sister’s dramatics. However, she would, and often did, needle her sister into hysterics just because she could. (Who else knows you well enough to push your buttons but a close sibling?)

Most evenings the “wind-down” time went well. One particular night, however, was more memorable than most. The girls played happily as I grabbed two cold beers and walked to the pier. I turned on the baby monitor and heard the reassuring sounds of J and S arguing over the crayons. You know, typical sister arguments. I settled back in my chair and let out a long sigh. Before I could crack open my beer, I heard the sound of the screen door slamming.

“MOM!” J screamed, even though we were close enough to speak in normal voices.

“Yes?” I replied calmly.

“S is NOT sharing and I TOLD her to SHARE!”

“Honey, lower your voice, we have neighbors next door. Remember I told you not to come out unless it was an emergency? This is not an emergency. Go back in and play with something else until she gets tired of it, then you can have a turn.”

“Okay, but I want my turn!” She stomped her little foot and went back in.

I opened my beer. I heard arguing on the monitor. After the first swallow, I hear the screen door slam.

“MOM! S hit me! She is being a BRAT!” J’s indignant voice bellows from the porch.

“Tell S mom said to stop hitting or she will have time-out. And you, young lady, do not snatch things away from her or you will have time-out.” Yeah, that’s right, I heard that on the monitor, I thought to myself. The only reply this time was the slamming of the screen door as she went back in. I snickered and drank a swallow of beer and settled into my chair.

Within three minutes, I heard the slamming of the door. Again. This continued for several more minutes. By the tenth time, I realised my enjoyable evening was going to be ruined if I didn’t nip it. Before she had time to whine, I beat her to the punch. I stood up to make sure she knew I meant business.

“DO NOT come back outside unless one of you are bleeding or have body parts falling off! Do you understand me?” I used my deadly quiet voice that could scare the leaders of small countries.

“Yes, ma’am” she wisely replied.

I heard the girls playing and all seemed well again on the home front. The peace lasted a whole 10 minutes before the door slammed again. I stood and glared.

“What did I tell you? You better be bleeding!”

I hear pitiful wails. “I am bleeding!”

Now, feeling guilt like only a mother can feel, I rushed up to my darling to see that she had stubbed her toe and ripped the toenail off. She really was bleeding.

~Rainey

PS Le Clown, this is the  post you inspired after reading about your adventure with LEP, Yoga Sucks Balls. Enjoy! 🙂

 

The Luckiest Girl In the World: A Fictional Story April 30, 2012

This is a fictional story about child abuse. Please do not read if it may trigger negative thoughts or memories.

Jen quietly shuffled through each day at school. She was a third grader at Parkway Elementary in a small southern town north of Atlanta. Jen was the kind of student every teacher dreamed about: she completed her homework every night, never missed a day of school, and was always on time. While she was not a top student, she usually made solid B’s or C’s. She didn’t talk much in class, but would answer quietly if called upon. Jen’s teachers wrote nice, generic comments on her report card: “A joy to teach” and “Turns in all assignments” or “A pleasure to have in class”. In a few short years, they would forget all about the quiet little girl who once sat in their class.

Jen loved school. She loved learning about far away places where boys and girls dressed differently and spoke with different accents. Reading was her favorite subject, and she could get lost for hours in a good novel. Jen had a harder time with math because sometimes the numbers just didn’t make sense the way they jumped about being equal or added or divided by 4. But words strung together, one behind another, led her to places she could see in her mind.

That is why she walked to the public library after school one cold, autumn afternoon. It was a Friday and Jen was out of school for the weekend. Everyday, she was to walk straight home after school, but she couldn’t stand the thought of spending all weekend without a few books to read. Jen rushed in the door and dropped the books she needed to return in the book drop. She hurried to the children’s section and quickly selected three books that looked interesting. Jen glanced at the large clock above the librarian’s desk and saw that ten minutes had already passed. Three people were in line ahead of her, but there was nothing she could do about that. She silently prayed the librarian wouldn’t get chatty with the customers, but of course she did. Mrs. Aimes was chatty with everyone in town. Another seven minutes passed before Jen finally secured her books and bolted out the door.

She ran the entire four blocks home. When she made it to her street, Jen stopped running and instead began walking fast to get her breathing under control. She quickly hid the library books in her backpack and took several deep breaths. She said another silent prayer, begging God to please let her mom be asleep as she made her way up the front steps, slipped the key in the lock, and opened the door.

It was dark inside. The lights were out and the blinds were all drawn shut. That, she thought, could be good or bad. Maybe she’s asleep. Jen quietly closed the door, being careful to turn the knob as she shut it to prevent it from making a sound. She then slipped off her tennis shoes and slid them into her backpack. She tip-toed through the small living room and down the hallway to her room, being careful to avoid the squeaky places in the floor. She knew every squeaky spot in the house from years of experience. Just as she was about to open the door to her room, she heard her mother’s voice.

“Jen, is that you?”

“Y-y-yes, mom, it’s me,” Jen stuttered with her hand frozen on the doorknob to her room. Her heart was pounding.

“Would you come in here please?” her mother asked in a soft voice.

Jen hesitated. It might be better if she put down her backpack in her room. Just as she was about to open her bedroom door and sling her backpack inside, her mother said, “Now.” Jen gulped and stepped into her mother’s room.

Her mother’s room was dark, as usual. Jen could see her lying in the middle of the king-sized bed, propped up on three pillows with her eyes closed. She still wore the pajamas she was wearing when Jen left for school that morning. Her long brown hair was a tangled mess that looked as though it hadn’t seen a hairbrush in days. The room smelled of stale cigarettes, beer, and dirty clothes. Jen walked with small, hesitating steps to her mother’s bedside.

“Yes, ma’am?” Jen asked.

Her mother did not reply. She continued to lie back on her pillows with eyes closed.

“Can I get something for you, mom? Do you have a headache? I can get you some…” Her mother’s hand came out of nowhere and slapped Jen on the side of her head. Still she did not sit up or open her eyes.

“Did I ask you to get me anything, Little Miss Know-It-All?” she growled at Jen.

“No, ma’am, I’m sorry,” Jen said quietly.

“What I want,” she said, as her eyes finally popped open, “Is for you to explain to me why you are late.”

Jen thought, for a split second, about lying, but she knew if she got caught it would be bad. Very bad.

“I, uh, stopped at the library. I’m sorry,” Jen said in a small voice.

Her mother sat up on the edge of the bed and leaned over to stare directly into Jen’s eyes.  Jen could smell alcohol on her breath but she didn’t dare turn away. “I see,” her mother replied. “That means you directly disobeyed me. Is that correct?”

“Yes ma’am.” Jen’s voice was barely a whisper.

“Then you know what this means, Jennifer. You now must face the punishment for your actions. You must learn your lesson. You are to never lie.” Her voice rose as she stood towering over Jen. ” You are to never cheat. You are to never steal. YOU MUST OBEY YOUR MOTHER!” With this, Jen’s mother punched her in the stomach so hard it lifted Jen up off the floor before she collapsed in a heap. Her mother then kicked her repeatedly as Jen lay on the floor, quietly sobbing. She knew better than to cry loudly or protest her punishment. It only made it worse.

“You are a terrible, sneaky child who doesn’t deserve love. Do you hear me? You don’t deserve love! You are just like your father: a stupid, spineless creature! Now, go to the Punishment Room. I’m sickened by the sight of your lying face.”

Terror filled Jen’s head. She wanted to scream, to beg, but she knew it was no use. When her mother drank and had her mind made up, there was no way to change it. Jen forced herself up from the floor. She slowly walked out of the bedroom and then turned the corner toward the kitchen. On the other side of the kitchen was a door that led to the basement. It was a dark and scary place, crawling with rats and roaches, but her real fear was in being alone for days.  She was, however, more terrified of defying her mother, so she opened the door and stepped through. As she did, her mother kicked her, causing Jen to fall down the stairs into the darkness below. She rolled and bounced down the creaky wooden steps until she came to a rest at the bottom.  The last sound she heard was her mother slamming the door and locking the deadbolt.

Jen lay there for a minute, assessing the damage. Her right knee and left elbow ached from the fall down the steps. Her head throbbed from where her mom had smacked her, but it wasn’t too bad. The worse pain came from her ribs. Jen moved cautiously, afraid her ribs were broken. It hurt to breath. She tried to take one deep breathe to get beyond the pain, but it was too intense, so she took little shallow breathes instead. After a few more minutes, the pain receded enough that she felt able to get up. That is when Jen realized her mom’s mistake. Her mom usually made sure that Jen left everything in her room before being placed in the Punishment Room. This time, she forgot that Jen still had her backpack containing the library books. She could read! She felt such joy that she almost wept. Her joy, however, was short-lived.

Looking around in the gloom, she realized she could not read, after all, because it was too dim. There was an overhead light, but her mother had removed the light bulb years ago when she first came up with the idea of the Punishment Room. Her heart sank. Having her books with her, but no way to read them was worse than not having them at all. She remembered something her teacher, Mrs. Butler, liked to say. “If you face a problem than seems too difficult to solve, try thinking of a different way.” So Jen looked around the dusty basement and tried to think of another source of light. She immediately thought of a fire, but dismissed that as too dangerous. Then she thought of a great idea: candles! Surely, somewhere in this room she could find some old candles. Jen began wandering around the perimeter of the basement, poking stacks of old magazines, piles of broken pipes, and boxes filled with rusty tools. A movement to the left caught her eye, and she fell back as a large rat glared at her before scurrying off. Not wanting to see him again, Jen turned toward the far wall of the basement to continue her search. There was an ancient brown trunk underneath a pile of suitcases with broken latches. She thought there might be candles in the trunk, so she began to move the suitcases out of her way. She had to move slowly because every move sent a burning pain through her side. When she moved the first one, Jen noticed something she had never, ever seen in the Punishment Room: a dusty ray of sunlight. Her eyes traced the light back to its source. It came from a rectangular frame high up on the wall. Peering closer, Jen realized she was looking at an old window. Covered with black paint, over the years the paint had peeled away in a few places allowing the sunlight to beam into the dark. She hadn’t seen it before because the stack of suitcases had blocked her view. Jen was so happy to see the sunlight that she cried for joy.

A few minutes later Jen discovered a rickety wooden ladder, leaned it against the wall behind the trunk, and carefully climbed up. She found a flat piece of metal in the pile of rusty tools and used it to scrape away a little more of the paint covering the window. Jen was afraid to remove too much of the paint because her mom might notice it. She shivered at the thought of what her punishment might be for that. Using her shirt, Jen wiped the spot clean. She placed her face against the glass and much to her delight, could see outside. Sunlight always made her happy, but this was like a special beam of hope created just for her.

Even though Jen knew her mother would not let her out until late on Sunday afternoon, she was afraid that her secret ray of hope would be discovered. She rearranged the trunk and suitcases by sliding them out and re-stacking everything. This gave her enough room to slip behind the pile and climb the ladder, but blocked the view from the stairs. Satisfied, she chose a book from her backpack and climbed the ladder to read.

After reading for a little while she began to get stiff. It was hard to balance on the ladder and hold the book up at the right angle to catch the light. Jen placed the book on the rung of the ladder and stretched, being careful of her side. She gazed out of the peephole she created and looked at the outside world. She could see the side yard and the wooden fence that encircled her house. Beyond the fence she saw her neighbor’s house. There was a boy who lived there named Hunter who was in the fifth grade. He lived with his mom and dad, and they had a cat named Lucky. Her mother never interacted with the neighbors, so she didn’t really know him or his family. All she knew about him came from watching him from her window. As she stood on the ladder looking out, she saw Hunter in his yard tossing a basketball at the hoop in his driveway. She stared wistfully out the window, wondering what it would be like to have a normal family. I’ll never know, she thought to herself, and she went back to reading her book. At least she could get lost in another land by reading.

Deeply engrossed in her book, Jen hardly heard the noise near her head. When she turned to look, an eye appeared on the other side of the glass only inches from her face. Jen was so startled her voice froze and she couldn’t even scream. She heard a muffled, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you!” as the eye receded and she saw that it belonged to Hunter, the boy next door. He smiled at her and gave a little wave. She was still too startled to speak so she just stood there, staring at him.

“So…what are you doing? Isn’t that the basement?” Hunter looked at her as if they were standing outside having a normal conversation.

Jen finally found her voice. “Um…yeah, I’m just….looking around down here.”

“It looks like you are standing on a ladder reading. Is your power cut off or something?”

Not knowing what to say, Jen just stared at him. Finally, Hunter cleared his throat. “So, you wanna come outside and hang out, maybe shoot some hoops?”

“Um, well….I can’t,” Jen thought quickly. ” I’m on restriction.”

Hunter frowned. “How come you never come out and play?” he blurted. “I mean, you seem nice and all but you always go straight in your house and you never play with any of us. It’s like, weird, you know?”

Jen’s eyes flashed angrily as she spoke. “I’m not weird. I just don’t like playing outside. I like to read instead.”

‘No offense!” Hunter exclaimed. “I, just, well, um….I wanna ask you something and I don’t want you to get mad. Why do you always have so many bruises? The other kids say your mom is a drunk and she smacks you around. Is that true?” All of his words came tumbling out without a pause for a breathe. “Cuz my mom used to do the same thing to me and that’s why I live with my dad and step mom now. The judge said no one had the right to hit me hard enough to break bones or leave marks and that was not what love was about.” Hunter looked away as he spoke these last words.

Jen stood looking at this boy. All of this time, she thought he was this happy kid in this wonderfully normal family. Now he was telling her that his mom used to beat him? Jen could not believe her ears. “She broke your bones?” she asked through the glass. To Jen, that seemed like the worst thing possible. He just nodded.

“My mom never broke my bones. She just gets mad sometimes, but it’s because I do bad things and I deserve punishment.”

Hunter stared at her for a moment, and then said, “That’s what I used to think. The judge said that’s not appropriate punishment and the things my mom did were because of the drugs she took. They made her not think straight. They call that having ‘impaired judgment’. She did bad things to me because she felt bad about herself.” Hunter shrugged his shoulders like it was no big deal, but they both knew it was a big deal. “Are you locked in the basement?” he asked quietly. Jen nodded.

“My dad can get you out.”

“NO!” Jen spoke in a sharp whisper. “Do you know what she will do to me? NO!” She glanced around nervously. “Just go away and leave me alone!”

“I have to help you. Now that I know, I have to do something. I’ll be right back.” Before Jen could speak, Hunter trotted across the yard and jumped the fence to his own yard. A moment later, he disappeared inside.

Jen was more terrified than she was when her mother kicked her down the stairs. What was that stupid boy going to do? If he told anyone, her mother would be furious. The thought made her so scared she wet herself. She used to wet the bed when she was a little kid, and sometimes it still happened when her mom really frightened her.

Jen jumped down from the ladder and hid her books in her backpack. She paced back and forth, wringing her hands. Please, she prayed quietly, please don’t let him tell anyone. I was stupid to trust him. Jen was so worried she didn’t even notice it was getting dark outside. She continued pacing back and forth, not knowing what might happen. Suddenly, she heard a noise at the window. It sounded so loud she almost screamed out loud. She scrambled back behind the trunk and looked up. A bright light lit up the clean spot on the window. Jen threw her hand up to shade her eyes and the light went away.

“Jennifer Workman, this is Officer Emily. Are you hurt?” The light shone on a small blonde woman wearing a police uniform. “I’m going to shine that light on you again so I can see if you are alright.” The light pivoted around and shone through the window. Jen shaded her eyes, and then responded.

“I’m fine. You shouldn’t be here! My mom will be so mad! Please be quiet and go away!”

“I’m sorry, Jen, I cannot do that. I need to make sure you are okay and that someone is not hurting you. Is there someone in the house who hurts you? If so, I can help you. You just need to tell me the truth.”

“No! I told you I am fine. Please go away!” Jen spoke in a loud whisper as she glanced behind her for any sign of her mother.

“Jen, my partner, Officer Paul, is going around to the front door to talk with your mother. I need you to tell me what happened today. Was your mother drunk when you got home? Did she hit you?”

Jen was so scared she practically screamed. “NO! Leave us alone! Nothing is wrong! Hunter is just lying because he hates me. Now go before my mom gets mad!” She was crying so hard she could barely speak. “I don’t want you here! I love my mother and she loves me and she would never hurt me!”

“Jen, I know you feel scared. I understand. I will stay with you until Officer Paul comes in to let you out. We are only here to help you.”

At that moment, Jen heard sounds at the basement door. The deadbolt clicked and the door opened. A strong flashlight lit up the stairs. “Jen, this is Officer Paul. No one is going to hurt you. Can you walk?” The stairs creaked as he slowly descended the steps. The flashlight swept the room until it landed on Jen. She stood frozen to the spot.  All Jen could think about was her mother, but there was no sign of her.

‘Where is my mom?” she whispered.

Officer Paul said gently, “She is drunk and passed out. I couldn’t wake her, so I have called an ambulance to come check on her. I also want them to check on you. Are you okay, Jen?”

Jen nodded. She was glad her mom wouldn’t wake up. That at least gave her time to figure out what to do. She heard the siren of the ambulance as it arrived, and Officer Emily came down the stairs toward her. Jen was so frightened her legs began to wobble, and Officer Emily reached out to catch her before she fell. Jen cried out in pain when the officer touched her side.

“I tripped and fell. I’m so clumsy and it is dark down here and I just tripped. And fell.” Jen’s voice faltered because she knew no one in the room believed her. Officer Emily yelled for the medics to come downstairs. They insisted that she lay down on the stretcher and then placed her in the ambulance. Not once did she see her mother.

A few hours later, Jen lay in a hospital room with three broken ribs. She lay in the middle of the bed, trying to stop the terrible thoughts that bounced in her head. There was a knock at the door, and Officer Emily walked in and sat in the chair by the bed.

“How are you, kid?”

“I have broken bones.”

“I heard. You ready to talk about it?”

“Where is my mom? When can I see her?” Jen shook with fear as she spoke.

‘Your mom can’t see you now. She has to get help for her problem. Don’t you want your mom to get help so she can stop drinking? Only you can help her.”

Jen thought for a minute. “How?”

“By telling the truth. If you keep protecting her, she will keep drinking. She will keep hurting herself and you. Jen, you are smart enough to know that the drinking is very bad for her health. She needs to stop. We can get her some help if you will tell us what happened.”

Jen thought about it. She did want her mom to get help. She wanted that more than anything. She read about terrible diseases that drinking could cause, and she wanted her mom to stop.

“She never broke my bones before…” she began. And once she began, the words poured out. She told them about the Punishment Room, and how she stayed there two or three days at a time. How she learned, years ago, to stash food and water in plastic containers inside an old cooler to keep the bugs out. She told how her mom would sometimes disappear for days or weeks, and leave Jen with no food in the house. Once she started talking, she told Officer Emily everything. That day, as she talked about it for the very first time, Jen began the long process of healing.

TWO YEARS LATER

Jen got off the school bus in front of her house. She raced up the front steps two at a time and flew through the front door. “Mama Ann! I got my report card! I made the Honor Roll!” Jen skidded to a stop in front of the kitchen counter where her foster-mother, whom she called Mama Ann, sat mixing the batter for brownies. Mama Ann threw down the spoon and picked Jen up, swinging her in the air as she yelled, “Woo-Hoo! I knew you could do it! Way to go!” Jen giggled and hugged Mama Ann. Together, they chatted about school as they finished the brownies and placed them in the oven.

Jen never saw her real mother anymore. When she was first rescued, the courts let them visit as long as a social worker was in the room. They tried to get her mom to stop drinking, but as Mama Ann later explained, alcohol just has too strong of a hold on some people and they just can’t give it up. Her mom tried to come see her a lot for the first month. After that, she only saw her mom once every two or three months. A year ago, her mom signed away her rights as her mother. It made Jen feel very sad, but her therapist explained that her mom had an addiction. Addictions control your life, even how you feel and think about people. She also said that her mom knew that Jen deserved a better life, so she gave her up. That made Jen feel a little better. What helped the most, though, was Mama Ann. She loved Jen and wanted to adopt her. This made Jen feel special and worthy of love. Even when Jen was being a brat, Mama Ann loved her. Jen knew, as she stood in that warm kitchen smelling brownies bake and chatting with Mama Ann, that she was the luckiest girl in the world.

Jen never saw her real mother anymore. When she was first rescued, the courts let them visit as long as a social worker was in the room. They tried to get her mom to stop drinking, but as Mama Ann later explained, alcohol just has too strong of a hold on some people and they just can’t give it up. Her mom tried to come see her a lot for the first month. After that, she only saw her mom once every two or three months. A year ago, her mom signed away her rights as her mother. It made Jen feel very sad, but her therapist explained that her mom had an addiction. Addictions control your life, even how you feel and think about people. She also said that her mom knew that Jen deserved a better life, so she gave her up. That made Jen feel a little better. What helped the most, though, was Mama Ann. She loved Jen and wanted to adopt her. This made Jen feel special and worthy of love. Even when Jen was being a brat, Mama Ann loved her. Jen knew, as she stood in that warm kitchen smelling brownies bake and chatting with Mama Ann, that she was the luckiest girl in the world.